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Spirituality Today: Beyond the White House

Created date

March 30th, 2009

Eight years ago, as U-Haul trucks backed into the driveway at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Clintons were packing for Chappaqua, N.Y. Around the corner, another van sat ready to unload the Bushes from Crawford, Tex.

What must it feel like to be an ex-President? "Like a giant locomotive pulling a toy train" according to William Howard Taft. King Lear was even more cynical: "Tis our fast intent to shake all cares and business from our age, conferring them on younger strengths, while we unburden d crawl toward death." Not a pretty picture for a retiring leader.

Happy horizons

But as a youthful 62 year old, George W. Bush the nation s 43rd President has every right to be optimistic about his future. In all likelihood, the Yale and Harvard graduate will journey through the three classic phases of retirement: the project phase, the restless phase, and the stable phase. And he will be answering the question that we all ask ourselves: "What has my life meant?"

This F-102 fighter pilot could soar into the final stage of life like the Levites of old. Those priestly leaders underwent a change in roles but continued as prominent public servants: "The Levites at the age of fifty must retire from their regular service . They may assist their brothers in performing their duties but they themselves must not do the work" so writes the post-centenarian Moses.

Emerging from the high ceremony of an opera house and the heavy lifting of a slaughterhouse, those late-midlife Levites became ambassadors of reconciliation. Embracing that example, Mr. President, we offer you the benediction of Emerson: "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Keeping the faith

Mr. President, as Marine One lifts you skyward for one last flight to Andrews Air Force Base, may you feel the same joy as that aging apostle who wrote: "The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."